This timeline is a work in progress (as is Suncompass's brain) so hopefully additions/changes will be made over time.

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Finding the Rats in Time
or, as Suncompass puts it. . .
'Dating the Rats'*

          Year

The Real World
(with focus on North Africa -
the countries on the Mediterranean Sea)

The Rat Patrol World
as interpreted by Suncompass
(Basic Suncompass basics)

Dislaimer: Suncompass has done her best to get the dates in her selective timeline right, but remember - she isn't an historian (ie some dates have a bit of wiggle room).

(Presenting historical accuracy was not a prime motivator for the Rat Patrol series.  In order to fit some episodes into reality, Suncompass had to ignore the series' implication that US forces fought throughout the entire North African war.  See here for more about that.)

To see a little more about the referenced Rat Patrol episodes, click on the green episode name when you see it.

1786-97

The United States enters into Treaties of Friendship with Morocco, Tripolitania (western Libya) and Tunisia respectively (end of Barbary Coast pirates)

1798

Napoleon invades Egypt

1801

British forces expel France from Egypt (The Napoleonic Wars did not begin for another two years; Waterloo occurred in 1815)

1830

France invades Algiers, ends Ottoman rule in region.

1881

France invades Tunisia, establishes government

1882

Britain occupies Egypt (France and Great Britain have been sparring over control of the Suez Canal since its launch in 1854)

1900

France occupies Morocco.

1906

France and Spain granted control of Morocco.

1911

Italy occupies the Tripolitania; 18 years later names the region 'Libya', an area encompassing Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and the Fezzan

1912

Spain officially controls the northern area of Morocco (becomes neutral territory during WW2.)

1914-1918

The Great War in Europe (WW1)

The lads of the Rat Patrol are born in or around this time - give or take a few years.  Dietrich probably born about this time too.

1936       

1936

Egypt attains independence from Great Britain; however, Great Britain retains control of Suez and many other of Egypt's affairs.

July

Spanish Civil War begins.

August

Berlin Olympic Games.

(for bigger version of map see below)

1939        

1939

Moffitt must have completed his phd thesis (on the 'ecological structure of the Nomadic tribes') and done some officers training (Chase of Fire Raid) before he enlisted in the British Army and wound up in Europe in time for Dunkirk (Fatal Reunion Raid).

March

Germany annexes Czechoslovakia

Sept 1

Germany invades Poland

Sept 4

France and Great Britain declare war on Germany.
British Expeditionary Force (BEF) deployed to Belgium.

Sam Troy's younger brother, David, joins the RAF (Royal Air Force).  (Field of Death Raid )

Sept '39 - April '40

The "Phoney War" or "Reluctant War".  Great Britain, France, and Germany stare at each other.

1940       

1940

May

Invasion of the Low Countries; Luxembourg, Holland, and Belgium overrun by Wehrmacht.

May 26 -
June 5

Dunkirk (Dunkerque) - remnants of the BEF are evacuated to England

Moffitt and Gabrielle exchange sweet goodbyes at the time of Dunkirk... but will meet another day in North Africa. (Fatal Reunion Raid)

June 10

Italy declares war on Great Britain and rumoured to have eyes on Egypt.

summer

British desert expert, Bagnold, is instructed to set up what becomes the LRDG (Long Range Desert Group) to do reconnaissance, gather intelligence, pathfind, courier, and complete small attacks deep in the desert.  

Raids made by both Italian and British on each other's North African targets.

June 22

France falls.  Italians bomb Alexandria (Egypt).

July

Unoccupied portion of France and her colonies (including Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia in North Africa) are placed under the control of the Vichy French government (puppet state of the Third Reich)

July 3

The British, fearing the French navy will fall into German hands to be used against them, sinks the French vessels moored at Mers el-Kebir (Oran), Algeria

July 10 -
Oct 31

The Battle of Britain

Sept 1940 - May 1941

London blitz, strategic bombing of UK cities

Sept 13

Italy, attacking from Libya, pushes eastward into Egypt. LRDG set up first desert base at Siwa Oasis, Libya.  Two days later they see first combat operations in the desert.

Most of the fighting early in the desert war took place on a narrow coastal band between El Agheila and El Alamein  where the opposing armies chased back and forth across it like horses racing back and forth on a long thin race track.  This to and fro 'chasing'  was known by some as the "Benghazi Handicap". ** Suncompass likes that name so much she's going to use it in this timeline to keep track of the to-ing and fro-ing.

November

Special Operations Executive (SOE) set up their first headquarters and begin recruiting in England.

Dec 9

British forces halt Italian forces at Sidi Barrani (Egypt).  British 8th army begins offensive, forcing Italians west out of Egypt.

First westward leg of the Bengazi Handicap <---

Dec 19

In retreat Mussolini (Italy) asks Germany for assistance.

 

(for bigger version of map see below)

1941       

1941

Jan 11

Free French Forces with LRDG take Murzuk (in southern Libya) from the Italians

Jan 22

Bardia then Tobruk (Libya) taken by Allies. 

Feb 7

British forces complete reversal of Italian invasion, pushing them back and taking Benghazi. The offensive halts at El Agheila, about 640 km (400 miles) east of Tripoli.

Feb 12

Irwin Rommel arrives in North Africa and assumes command of the DAK (Deutche Afrika Korps)

March 1

Free French Forces take Kufra Oasis (southern Libya)

March 4

First Allied forces are drawn away from the desert to defend Greece.

March 24

German forces attack British forces, recapturing El Agheila

April

LRDG move headquarters from Siwa to Kufra

First eastward lap of the Benghazi Handicap --->

April 4

German and Italian forces take Benghazi.  Then Derna.

April 9

Axis forces take Bardia.

April 12

Tobruk entirely encircled by Axis.  Allied forces, mostly Australian, hold them out.  Other German units pass it by and push on toward Egypt, taking Sollum.

April 27

German forces push into Egypt and take Halfaya Pass.  British set up defense line at Mersa Metruh.

May 15

Allies push Rommel's forces back to the Egyptian border.

June 15-17

Allied Operation Battleaxe to relieve seiged Tobruk fails to make headway.

July

David Stirling forms the Special Air Service (SAS); its purpose to harrass the enemy behind the lines

Summer

Royal Scots Greys, a cavalry unit, officially becomes part of the Royal Armoured Corps - by August almost all horses are gone and the regiment is training in the desert with tanks

Possibly when Moffitt (originally of the Royal Scots Greys) learns to operate a tank (Darers Go First Raid)

Sept 19

Rommel sends panzer division searching into British territory near Sidi Barrani for an Allied fuel dump he believes is there.  No luck. Withdraws again to Libya/Egypt border.

Nov 17

S.A.S. goes on its first mission.

Nov 18-
Dec 10

Operation Crusader - Tobruk relieved by British 8th Army after a 242 day siege.  The Allies push Rommel and DAK back to the west as far as Gazala.

Second westward lap of Benghazi Handicap. <---

Dec 25

Rommel, fearing his forces might be outflanked at Gazala retreats further.  Derna falls to Allies, and by Christmas Benghazi is again Allied-held.

(for bigger version of map see below)

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1942        

1942

Jan 6

Allies force Rommel back as far as Tripolitania frontier [roughly El Agheila]

Hitch gets a tattoo at Fort Benning USA sometime in 1942 (Life against Death Raid).  This act logically happens before he arrives in North Africa.

Jan 21

Rommel's second offensive starts his drive east, pushing Allies toward Egypt again.

Second eastward lap of Benghazi Handicap. --->

Feb 7

Bengazi falls to the Axis, but Allies stop the Germans at the Gazala line. There they sit in stalemate until May

Danger to convoys supplying essentials to Island of Malta (Allied) increases because of Axis airfields in German-held Benghazi.  Malta comes under severe air attack.

Chase of Fire (Pilot episode) - reason dicates this must happen AFTER Hitch gets his tattoo, but before other episodes (based on arrival of Moffitt with the patrol in this episode).

Life Against Death Raid - First demonstration of Moffitt's German skills for the patrol.  It must follow Chase of Fire episode but precede Double or Nothing Raid (March 7, 1942).

March 7

Double or Nothing Raid - March 7 1942, date given in this episode for execution of Moffitt.

May 26

Battle for Gazala line begins.  Rommel's forces outflank the Allied defences.

Bir Hacheim at the south end of the Gazala line is held by Foreign Legionnaires of the Free French forces and stalls the German advance.

Fatal Chase Raid - According to sources, a convoy of heavy German equipment has just left Benghazi. For that port to be in German hands this episode must fall between Feb 7 and Nov 20, 1942.

June 10

Bir Hacheim finally falls to the German attack.

June 13

O.S.S. formed.

June 21

Tobruk taken by the Germans. Hitler decides not to pause to invade Malta. The Axis forces again drive Allies galloping east from Gazala to Egypt.  Gazala Gallop is name given to their race back to El Alamein.

June 28

Mersa Matruh (Egypt) falls to Rommel

June 29

Cairo leak channelling sensitive Allied military information to Rommel is finally plugged. 

July

S.A.S. get their first order of jeeps for use in desert raids. The LRDG later scavenge the S.A.S. cast-offs until they are able to acquire new jeeps of their own.

July 2

Rommel reaches El Alamein (Egypt) and held there. El Alamein is a railway station only 240 km (150 miles) west of Cairo.

July 26

End of First Battle of El Alamein that raged up and down the line near El Alamein.  Neither side advances and both lose men and valuable equipment.

Aug 13

Auchinleck is relieved of British 8th Army command.  General Bernard Law Montgomery assumes command.

Aug 31

Rommel makes final attempt to break through the line at El Alamein - fails.

Sept 13

Rommel leaves North Africa on medical leave. 

Sept 14

Operation Agreement- LRDG and combined  Allied forces make simultaneous attacks on Tobruk, a valuable supply port for the Axis. The attack fails.

Oct 18

Hitler orders that all Allied Commandos must be executed on capture - without trial.

The One that Got Away Raid - Dietrich tells the captured Rat Patrol members that he could have them shot as spies.  Episode action likely set sometime after Hitler's Commando Order.

Oct 23

1000 gun bombardment on the Axis positions at El Alamein in preparation of major Allied push to break out.

Oct 25

Rommel shortens his sick leave to take charge again.

Nov 2

Second battle of El Alamein begins.  Rommel retreats west.  Hitler orders "...no other way but the one that leads to victory or death!"  German and Italian forces try to hold their positions.

Third, and final, westward lap of the Benghazi Handicap.  <---

Nov 5

Axis forces cannot hold their positions and retreat from El Alamein.

Nov 8

Operation Torch landings in Algeria and Morocco by US and UK forces, face opposition from the Vichy-controlled French forces.  The Free French Resistance neutralizes some Vichy forces in Algiers.

Ned Cunningham, flying with the US Army Air Force arrives about now to do battle with the enemy in North Africa. (The Gunrunner Raid )

Cpl. Pennel arrives sometime after this date to fight with the US Army in North Africa. (The B-negative Raid )

Nov 9

Massive Axis troop reinforcements begin to be rerouted to Tunisia in case Rommel's forces in the desert are outflanked by rapidly advancing Allies. 

The British 8th army retakes Mersa Matruh.

Fatal Reunion Raid - Two years, five months and eleven days after Moffitt and Gabrielle last met (about the time of Dunkirk) they meet again about the time of Operation Torch - this time somewhere in North Africa. 

Do or Die Raid -  happens sometime after Operation Torch. The map the Rats must replace indicates movement of the American First Armored Division.  The American First Armored (Old Ironside) arrived in North Africa with Operation Torch and fought later in the Kasserine Pass. 

Nov 10/11

Hitler demands the Vichy government give Germany access to the ports of Tunis and Bizerta and all Tunisian air bases.  There is no Vichy opposition.  Tunisia is occupied, the only country in North Africa officially occupied by Germany. 

Commander of Vichy French forces in Algeria and Morocco halts hostilities with the Allies.  Algeria supplies the Allies with a base for the subsequent campaign against the German forces occupying Tunisia.

British 8th Army retakes Sidi Barrani.

Last Harbor Raid -  happens after Tunisia is occupied by the Germans.  According to rumour, once her  North African country is occupied by the Germans, Marianne takes to collaborating with them. 

Last Chance Raid - happens sometime after Operation Torch (Nov 8). German radio propaganda in this episode is aimed at the Americans fighting along side the British in North Africa, and Troy refers to the U.S. 2nd Corps that arrived in North Africa with Operation Torch.

Nov 13

British 8th retake Tobruk

Nov 17

First clash between US/Anglo and German forces takes place inside Tunisia. 

Nov 20

British 8th army reachs and re-takes Benghazi.

Nov 23

First German Tiger Tanks arrive in North Africa via Bizerte and see action against the Allies near Tunis in early December. More arrive later.

The Two if By Sea Raid - happens sometime about the time of first delivery of Tiger Tanks to North Africa.  The Rat Patrol must ensure that the German navy, transporting Tiger Tanks to North Africa, falls into an Allied trap.

Dec 13 

Axis armies retreat from El Agheila (Libya). 

(for bigger version of map see below)

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1943

1943

Jan

Between January and March French authorities in Algeria innoculate about 37,000 Arabs in French North Africa with live Typhus vaccine to combat potential epidemics.

The Decoy Raid - French authorities are immunizing locals against a Typhus epidemic when a crazed German officer interferes.

Jan 23

Montgomery (British) takes Tripoli.  Rommel retreats back toward Tunisia.

Jan

Free French take control of the Fezzan territory (southern part of Libya) via Chad.   ‘Winter stalemate' in Tunisia

Jan 29

British 8th army crosses intoTunisia on the retreating Germans' heels. 

Feb 21

American troops retreat from the Kasserine Pass (Tunisia)

Feb 25

American troops take the Kasserine Pass.

March 9

Hitler orders Rommel out of North Africa. Replaces him with Von Arnim as Commander in Chief of the Axis forces

March 28

British 8th Army breaks through the Mareth line (near Medenine) in Tunisia and then advances north.

April 7-8

British 8th Army and the US Second Corps link up in central Tunisia.  British 1st army fights in northern Tunisia.

April 10

Allied forces reach Sfax (Tunisia) as they head north toward Tunis.

The Kill or Be Killed Raid - happens about now because a German officer clearly indicates on his map of Tunisia that the active front lies north of the Mareth line in the vicinity of Sfax. 

April 16

'The man who never was' is dropped into the sea carrying false plans for the invasion of Sicily intended to divert the Germans.

In The Mask-a-Raid Moffitt, in disguise, is assigned to relay false information to the Germans in North Africa about the invasion of Sicily.  This episode must be set before the end of the war in North Africa and before Operation Husky (invasion of Sicily on July 10).

The Fifth Wheel Raid - An Allied Colonel is 'captured' by the Germans while he is returning from a general meeting we are told was in Tunis.  This happens sometime between May 7 and 13.  Before May 7th Tunis was not in Allied hands, and after May 13 the Germans in North Africa were not in a position to kidnap anyone.

April 20

Hitler's birthday

May 7

Tunis (captial of Tunisia) falls to the Allies.

May 13

All Axis forces in North Africa surrender. The war in North Africa is over.

May 15

Control of Tunisia is handed to the Free French.

July 10

Allies invade Sicily - Operation Husky

August 11
Sept 4
Sept 27

Ned Cunningham, gunrunner, claims the Rat Patrol ruined his arms deal with the Germans in North Africa on these dates in 1943. (The Gunrunner Raid)  It follows that this episode must be set later than September 27, 1943 despite problems with making it fit with reality.

Sept 3

Italy surrenders

Nov 16

The Greek islands (including Rhodes) surrender to the Germans. Prior to September they were Italian-held and then briefly Allied-held until the German invasion in November. The Axis continue to hold the island until September 1944.

The Hide and Go Seek Raid - A mute boy is kidnapped by the Germans and is being held on the Island of Rhodes. The Rat Patrol must rescue him - between Nov 1943 and Sept 1944, a period when Germans occupy Rhodes. 

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1945 -1946           

May 7 1945

Germany surrenders unconditionally. End of European war.

1945

Massive independence demonstrations in Algeria, thousands killed.

August 14 1945

Formal surrender of Japan. End of war in the Pacific

1946

Jordan, Syria and Lebanon achieve independence from France and Great Britain

(for bigger version of map see below) 

1950s

1951

Libya attains independence from Italy

1954

Egypt announces independence from Great Britain

1956

Morocco and Tunisia attain independence from France

1959

Oil discovered in Libya

and on . . . 

1962

Algeria attains independence from France

2002

Bir Hacheim (Libya) declared free of landmines but as many as 18 million second world war landmines remain scattered through Libya and Egypt.

 


The bigger version of map of North African countries

Just a few Suncompass basics to help make a little more sense of who was where when.

Before the war:
    -  Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia were protectorates/colonies of France. 
     - Libya was a colony of Italy.
     - Egypt was in part administered by Britain who maintained military forces there.
     - Spanish Morocco was a Spanish colony.  It was officially neutral during the war.

When France fell in 1940, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia came under French Vichy rule.  Morocco and Algeria were not occupied by Germany but  briefly experienced land battle between Allies and Vichy French forces during Operation Torch.

When Allied Operation Torch invasion happened in late 1942,  Morocco and Algeria went to the Allied side after a few days of resistance.  Tunisia  alone was occupied by Germany and saw fierce battles.

There are many online historical timelines. The timeline on the website linked below is a particularly good one with special attention to the North African Theatre.

http://www.worldwar-2.net/timelines/war-in-the-desert/war-in-the-desert-index.htm  (choose a timeline year on the right side of webpage)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/war/wwtwo/launch_ani_north_africa_campaign.shtml  has an excellent concise animation showing the to-ing and fro-ing of the war in North Africa. Well worth a looksee.

*DATING THE RATS: It is always dangerous to consider dating any major character in a TV series (particularly those made in the 1960s). The romantic interest who dared do that usually wound up dead  - especially in any series that had people toting dangerous weapons or driving fast vehicles.  (And they did both in the Rat Patrol.)  But as you have surely deduced by now, on this webpage Suncompass is NOT talking about the romantic type of 'Dating the Rats' (although goodness knows she'd be happy to give it a try despite the dangers of that).  She's thinking about a whole other sort of dating - the sort that has to do with time. [back to the top again]

** The Benghazi Handicap is described in some websites, not as being the back and forth 'race' across the desert, but just the chase eastward from Benghazi to Tobruk in April 1941.  Suncompass does not know for sure which of the descriptions is the right one.  But she's sticking with the 'back and forth' race one.

top
Many thanks to Anne Barnes "Johnson!" for her help in cobbling this timeline together.

see Suncompass's reasoned stab at
Finding the Rats in Place
or as Suncompass might put it . . .
'Where the heck were they?'

Note: Suncompass has to find the Rats before she can create the 'Place' webpage.
She appreciates your patience. Please to drop by another time. You never know. She might know where they are by then.

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page last updated May 6, 2005
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